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Turkey re-arrests 21 journalists set to be released

Journalists remain in detention on charges of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order despite previous court orders
A protester holds a copy of the Cumhuriyet in Ankara in October 2016 after the detention of the newspaper's editor-in-chief and a dozen journalists and executives (AFP)

Twenty-one Turkish journalists expected to be released on Friday night have been re-arrested and will remain in jail, activists reported.

They had been arrested following the July 2016 failed coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and accused of various crimes including terrorism and links to US-based cleric Fetullah Gulen, who the government claims was behind the foiled coup.

An Istanbul court on Friday ordered the release of the 21 journalists pending trial, but Istanbul chief prosecutor's office objected and opened a new investigation on the basis of new charges.

The journalists are now accused of attempting to overthrow the government and will remain under detention.

The families of the journalists had gathered in front of the gates of the Silivri Prison, west of Istanbul, to take them home after eight months in jail, but they were left waiting with no explanation on why the release had been delayed.

The new decision follows an intense campaign waged by pro-Erdogan media and lawmakers who asked for the renewal of their detention.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) had called on Turkish authorities to release all journalists imprisoned for their work and to drop all charges against them.

The unprecedented crackdown on the press has deprived Turkish citizens of independent coverage on subjects of vital public interest and has contributed to the rapid decline of democratic governance in the country, CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said.

In December 2016, Turkey held at least 81 journalists in response to their work, more than any other country at any given time since CPJ started keeping records in 1992.

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